The 10 states that fill out the top ranks of this year's Failed States Index—the world's most vulnerable nations—are a sadly familiar bunch. Shattered Somalia has been the No. 1 failed state for three years running, and none of the current top 10 has shown much improvement, if any, since Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace began publishing the index in 2005. Altogether, the top 10 slots have rotated among just 15 unhappy countries in the index's six years. State failure, it seems, is a chronic condition.
This year's index draws on 90,000 publicly available sources to analyze 177 countries and rate them on 12 metrics of state decay—from refugee flows to economic implosion, human rights violations to security threats. Taken together, a country's performance on this battery of indicators tells us how stable—or unstable—it is. And unfortunately for many of the 60 most troubled, the news from 2009 is grave.
Click here to see the full photo gallery of images from the world's most failed states on Foreignpolicy.com.
At the top of the list, Somalia saw yet another year plagued by lawlessness and chaos, with pirates plying the coast while radical Islamist militias tightened their grip on the streets of Mogadishu. Across the Gulf of Aden, long-ignored Yemen leapt into the news when a would-be suicide bomber who had trained there tried to blow up a commercial flight bound for Detroit. Afghanistan and Iraq traded places on the index as both states contemplated the exit of U.S. combat troops, while already isolated Sudan saw its dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, defy an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo once again proved itself a country in little more than name.